Individual Being and the Universal Being
While reading Sri Shankaracharya's
commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad (verse 3), we
come across the following observation: 'Otherwise, the indwelling
Self, as circumscribed by one's own body, will alone be perceived,
as It is by the Sankhyas and others; and in that case the
specific statement, made by the Upanishads, that It is non-dual
will have no distinctiveness, for there will be no difference
from the philosophies of the Sankhyas and others. But as a
matter of fact, it is desirable to find all the Upanishads
in accord in propounding the unity of all the selves.'
On reading this, a sadhaka
who had no knowledge about Sankhya, asked for an elaboration
in simple, spiritual language. The question is very fundamental
and it needs to be dwelt upon in some detail. We shall discuss
it from various angles under three headings:
(1) The Sankhya attitude;
(2) Vedantic rishis and
(3) The necessary corresponding
attitude of a true sadhaka.
The Sankhya Philosophy
There are persons who
are selfish, who have experienced life in the world as full
of misery, who believe in rational intelligence and follow
the methods of observation and generalization as in science.
The difference is that science does not go beyond data collected
and verified by the five senses; while these Sankhya philosophers
undertake subtler generalizations based on the subtle truths
perceived by yogic methods of concentration. Their ultimate
· · There are two eternal
existential categories - consciousness and matter.
· · There are innumerable
'consciousnesses' (conscious entities) called purushas.
· · All matter, gross
and subtle, is unified in an indiscreet matrix called prakriti.
· · This indiscreet prakriti
functions in the presence of the purushas and evolves
into the world. Its purpose is to give experiences (enjoyment)
to the purushas and then to release them into a state
of kaivalya or moksha.
Kaivalya or moksha
means conscious dissociation from prakriti. Man is
miserable because of his wrong identification with the evolutes
of prakriti from gross matter up to buddhi (the
faculty of intelligence). So moksha consists in conscious
dissociation from prakriti - leaving it to work for
others. Such an individual (the mukta) is free from
the possibility of misery. The Sankhyas do not know whether
there is anything called ananda, or bliss, apart from
release from the possibility of duhkha, or sorrow.
There is no real God
in the Sankhya philosophy. They say, 'If God is perfect why
should He create this universe? If God is imperfect He cannot
create it.' They accept a ruler god, omniscient and omnipotent
for all time - that individual, who, instead of enjoying his
separation from prakriti, identifies himself with prakriti
in its entirety rather than with its individualized evolutes.
So he gets the power to direct the affairs of the world.
So the Sankhyas do not
get stuck with the five organs like the scientists, but are
confounded by the buddhi which results in this purusha-prakriti
separation. They say, 'The purusha has no sukha-duhkha
(happiness or misery)', and yet they posit the difference
in individual perception of sukha-duhkha as proof of
the existence of (an infinite number of) different purushas!
This means that they are not able to remove the 'my' factor
Vedantic Rishis and
The Vedantic rishis do
not uphold individualism, nor are they afraid of misery as
they well know that bliss is their very nature. Their findings
include the following:
· · The ultimate Reality
is one without a second.
· · It is of the nature
of unbroken Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
· · It manifests in infinite
· · These forms hide
the absolute Existence-Consciousness-Bliss nature of Reality
and only then do we call these forms 'matter'.
· · While appearing in
manifold forms it creates or projects, or rather appears,
as an instrument called mind (that includes buddhi),
which has the property of illusorily splitting all forms into
subjective and objective categories. The individual souls
(purushas) appear different only because of consciousness
being wrongly identified with individualized subjective parts
of matter, which identification has no basis in Reality. If
I am searching for 'my reality', I cannot reach the ultimate
Reality unless everything that is 'my' is dropped.
· · Bliss is our nature.
It is identical with Consciousness, which has nothing to do
with any form. As soon as it appears to be identified with
a particularized form, the bliss is covered and the unreal,
apparent subject-object split produces perpetual tension.
This is because whether we posses an object or dissociate
from it, we and the object are separate and this separation
between apparent subjects and apparent objects produces eternal
tension. Tension ceases only when there is no split. This
can be achieved neither by denying objects nor by embracing
them, because this does not remove the split.
· · Moksha, or
perfection, consists in the realization that:
a) There is no 'matter',
everything is but the continually changing forms of Reality,
One without a second.
b) The split between
subject and object is not real, and hence there is no split
in Consciousness. Even the split in matter (forms of consciousness)
is caused by the mind, which is itself an appearance of Reality.
c) The same God, sat-chit-ananda,
appears as I, you, he, she, it - objects and subjects in this
world. All appearances are illusory as God has not changed
at all, and in reality God is beyond all forms; hence no split
is possible in Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
d) This God is appearing
as 'I' and the 'world', but in moksha It shows Itself
as without split, without form, as in Sri Ramakrishna's nirvikalpa
samadhi. This is infinite Existence, infinite Consciousness,
infinite Bliss, the One without a second. This is the source
of the feeling of an unchanging Atman in us, this is beyond
manifoldness, this is real and absolute tranquility - all
other tranquilities are reflections of this on different levels;
this is the supreme good and all bliss, this is non-dual.
· · There is this God.
He (or She) is perfect. He has no motive or purpose in creating
the world that gives us the impression that He is imperfect.
It is His (or Her) nature to appear in myriad forms. In fact
it is the Reality Absolute denoted by 'It', which, without
any change, without any split, appears as this phenomenal
existence. We then say that there is a 'power of appearance',
and we identify this power as feminine; hence when 'It' appears
as having a power then It is termed 'He' and the power 'She'.
Sant Jnaneshwar declares, 'It is the essence of all zeros
(that is, when everything is reduced to zero, you really get
to the Reality-at-the-back, which is It); but this power (to
appear as the manifold) is conceptualized as a feminine entity,
which makes this 'It' appear as 'He' and who Herself appears
as power due to His mere presence.
· · We are all one,
or rather non-different, in this God.
Attitude of a True Sadhaka
In the beginning the
sadhaka feels as follows:
· · I am imperfect -
incomplete like a fraction. I have a subject-object polarity.
God is perfect. He is the partless whole. He, or rather 'It',
is beyond all polarity, beyond all split. Such a God or Brahman
is my Atman. Unless I realize It fully in my being, in my
consciousness, and in my life, I can never be at peace.
· · God, who is sat-chit-ananda,
is all-pervading. The 'all' as such is the continually changing,
evanescent realm of forms. This includes all the parts and
phases of my personality. The feeling of something real, something
continuous is only due to His all-pervasiveness. How can I
realize this God, who is my own reality and also the one Reality
of the entire ever-changing universe?
· · All the problems
of my life will be automatically solved when I realize God,
who is my Self and also the Reality of all phenomena, and
who is ever beyond all manifoldness or differences, beyond
any subject-object split.
· · I do not want anything
of this world; I do not want to be attached to any part or
phase of my so-called personality. I want my Reality; only
the Reality, the One without a second.
For such a sadhaka, hindrances
due to maya in the form of hidden wrong attitudes and the
like, are removed by the love for the Absolute Reality - whose
real nature is revealed in the rishi-vakyas (scriptures)
and which Itself is God, ishta, and guru - because
that is much more powerful (by virtue of the power of Truth)
than the combined power of all forms of maya, internal or
as objects of the world.
The true sadhaka is taught
to think and feel thus: 'This body, mind, and the rest, are
not mine, the experiencer in me is not "I", but
everything belongs to the Reality, the Reality is the experiencer,
the experienced and also the fact of experience.'
In the light of the Vedantic
truth as revealed by the rishis described above, it is abundantly
clear that It is the Absolute Reality itself which is appearing
as the sadhaka in one of the illusory forms. As the form is
illusory and as the Reality is covered, the sadhaka feels
all parts and phases of his personality to be real and belonging
to himself, and also the objects of the world of innumerable
types - animate, inanimate, men, women, and the like - all
to be separately real, and the subject-object dichotomy created
by the mind also to be real. But by the mysterious 'lila'
of the Reality, the sadhaka comes across a person (or persons)
in actual life whom he at once recognizes as representing
the Truth, their life as the true perfect life, and feels
drawn to them. He feels 'He or It is my only support, I am
supported by It alone and so is the whole world'; or 'I belong
to Him and so does the world, and He belongs to me'; or 'There
is neither world nor "I", it is all He and He alone.'
This starts a process of transcendental illumination of all
parts and phases of the personality, transcendental illumination
of the entire phenomenon called the world, and transcendental
illumination of the illusory subject-object duality. But the
sadhaka is still a sadhaka; the Reality is not yet manifested
in him. The covering or hiding power called maya functions
in him in different ways. (One of the ways of this functioning
of maya is the Sankhya tendency to perpetuate individualism
and dependence on buddhi. There are various other ways
in which maya shows itself in the sadhaka's mind.)
But in the true sadhaka's
life the ultimate authorities are the rishi-vakyas
(as explained by the great acharyas), the incarnations, and
the guru. Through love for these authorities and detachment
from everything else, including all objects and persons and
all parts and phases of his own personality - with the knowledge
that they are all illusory appearances of the Reality - the
sadhaka rises higher and higher, crossing all hindrances in
his mind and outside. Depending on the power of these authorities
which is constantly pulling him higher and higher, and on
their words of advice, the sadhaka goes on revising his own
thinking, feeling and willing. He keeps on absorbing the illumination
playing in the form of these authorities till he himself finally
comes to the full realization of Brahman, the One without
a second. ~